Terms and Conditions: Do You Read the Fine Print?

terms_and_conditionsWhen it comes to “Terms and Conditions” let’s be honest, most of us don’t read the fine print. I know I usually don’t. In 2010, this Forbes article referenced a study that showed about one in 1,000 people actually clicked on terms and conditions on websites, and probably even fewer actually read the terms. While this example is a few years old, I can only assume that number has actually dropped because most of us have such a short attention span (myself included) when it comes to reading long documents online (or in general).

Now, I’ll be honest – when it comes to my money I tend to be a little more interested in the fine print, but I still don’t study the entire set of terms. On social networks and websites, well I guess I’m just hoping for the best. The main issue: they are not user-friendly. Who wants to sift through, or scroll through, pages of legal jargon or information that will probably not impact our day to day use of the social network? After reading the terms and conditions of Facebook and Twitter (yes, I just did this as part of my assignment – I didn’t take it upon myself to be an informed user), I remembered why I don’t usually spend time reading these documents. Snoozefest! Yes, I said it.

I think new ways social networks could help users better understand terms and conditions would be to create infographics or brief videos. Pull out the main highlights and help users understand those to start. Then, if someone wants to learn more or needs to for legal reasons they could click on a link to view the entire document. Google actually does a great job of this with its features. No shocker there. Google always seems to do things “right.” Google include videos, almost tours, of each of its features. Check out the Hangouts video or learn more about Google+ Circles as examples. In less than 2 minutes, it’s clear how the features work and the purpose. Something like this could be done for terms and conditions. I think it would be a lot more relatable to most of us who relate to visual, short content.

But I guess there does have to be some responsibility on us as users. While Facebook and Twitter both use “You” instead “We” a lot in their respective terms, they are technically putting it all out there for us to read and interpret on our own. If we don’t, that’s on us and as we’ve seen in the past with Instagram, that lack of knowledge can cause controversy, but also change. If you think about it, how can these social networks monitor everything, everyone posts? They can’t. So as users we must accept some responsibility.

The great thing about social media is if we do have a problem with a term or condition, we can voice it to a large audience. As Twitter’s Terms of Service states:

“What you say on Twitter may be viewed all around the world instantly. You are what you Tweet!”

Happy posting, everyone!




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